David Cloninger looks at every aspect of South Carolina’s last game and assigns a grade. Go to the head of the class if the grades you assigned the Gamecocks match his.
NO. 11 SOUTH CAROLINA 19, FLORIDA 14
Connor Shaw is clearly not the same quarterback he was, in terms of running the ball. He’s playing on a healing sprained knee, and that takes some guts, but he simply doesn’t have the same explosiveness and cutting speed that he had. On Saturday, he was also off throwing the ball. He overthrew some wide-open receivers and wasn’t taking that extra step to plant his front foot. His one touchdown was a great reaction play, but it was also a product of the defensive back getting turned around.
Mike Davis got dinged up on the first offensive play of the second half, and was gimpy afterward, but that opened the door for Shon Carson. Carson posted his first career 100-yard game and saved the day with a 58-yard burst from the Gamecocks’ 5-yard-line on a routine draw. Keep in mind, the grade is for the entire group – Davis wasn’t great, but he also wasn’t used that much.
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Bruce Ellington made an excellent adjustment to keep tracking Shaw’s touchdown throw past an outstretched hand, and Damiere Byrd continues to have a great year, catching a lot of passes in traffic. Shaq Roland also caught a ball, and Shaw threaded the needle to Nick Jones. When Shaw could get it together and make the throw, his receivers caught it.
Busta Anderson caught three passes and looked good doing it, but missed a block on a key fourth-down try late in the game. Still, like the receivers, he knew what to do with the ball when Shaw got it to him.
Against a strong defensive front, USC held its own, but also gave up two sacks and six tackles for loss. The protection on Shaw was good, the opening of holes for Davis was so-so. Cody Waldrop got back in the starting lineup and mostly played well.
Jadeveon Clowney played his best game of the season, and on basically one leg. The rest of the line seemed flummoxed. Florida made no bones about what it was going to do, yet Gator runners still came through big holes and almost always got yards after contact. Overall, the defense played a great game, but quarter-to-quarter, it didn’t look like it was going to end that way.
The linebackers at least slowed down some of the Gators’ runners, and played the edges well. Skai Moore had six tackles in a burgeoning All-SEC freshman campaign, and Kaiwan Lewis had five. The linebackers are so much more fundamentally sound than they were at season’s beginning.
Victor Hampton had another fine day and Jimmy Legree intercepted a pass to clinch the game. Against a running offense, the secondary just had to play up to the line and make its tackles, and after an adjustment period, it did. Hampton and Sharrod Golightly had six tackles each.
Elliott Fry continues to be one of the league’s best kickers, knocking four field goals in an SEC Freshman of the Week performance. That was the good news. The bad news was that outside of a magnificent rolling punt to the 1-yard-line late in the game, Tyler Hull was again not good. Landon Ard shanked yet another kickoff out-of-bounds at a very bad time. The grade is slightly above average because Fry was the offense in a close game.
OVERALL GRADE: B
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